*Lauryn Hill, Fantasia and Wyclef Jean will join Cyndi Lauper and John Mellencamp as first-time performers at the 43rd annual New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, which opens Friday at the Fair Grounds Race Course.
“This is one of our broadest years, musically speaking,” said Quint Davis, producer of the festival that will run seven days, over the course of two weekends. “We’ve got important people coming from all ends of the spectrum and for some of them they’re all new to jazz fest.”
Along with fresh faces, Davis said some of the festival’s perennial favorites will return to perform on the 12 stages set up around the track.
“Jimmy Buffett, the Nevilles, Jeff Beck, Irma Thomas, Bon Jovi, these are some of our favorite people and they’ll be back,” Davis said. “Gregg Allman returns, but this year he’ll be a different version of himself. He’s coming with his blues band, a new project of his.”
Last year, musicians from the Dominican Republic, Martinique and Senegal performed at the festival. This year, the spotlight is on Haiti, still recovering from a deadly January earthquake.
In addition to performances by Jean, a Goodwill Ambassador to his homeland, fans can experience Haitian rhythms from parading Rara bands, Konpa big-band dance music, traditional drumming and popular contemporary bands including Tabou Combo, Ram, Boukman Eksperyans and Emeline Michel.
There also will be Haitian master artisans demonstrating their craft in the Haiti Pavilion, as well as food demonstrations and panel discussions on the historical and cultural connections between Haiti and New Orleans.
“We have put together the largest Haitian culture exposition in the United States since the earthquake,” Davis said. “We said, ‘Let’s remind the world about Haiti. Let’s show the world that country’s culture, art and music and remind them about the indomitable spirit of those who live there.”